passed tests: none // failed tests: gender bechdel test, race bechdel test, lgtbqia+ bechdel test // rated 7.8/10 on the Internet Movie Database
The Sandlot is a classic baseball movie which everyday references have stemmed from, making it a household name. It follows the legend of The Sandlot, using interesting allusions, imagery, and effects to depict the story of The Greatest Pickle of All. If you ever even slightly liked baseball, you’ve seen The Sandlot over and over again, and are able to recognize “you’re killing me smalls” and re-imagine the scene where Ham uses the greatest insult of all; “you play ball like a girl”.
But what The Sandlot is really about is boys. Directed by a boy, written by a boy, watched by boys, idolized by boys, showing boys playing the boy sport of baseball. I attempted to pick out problematic quotes and actions within the film, but it wasn’t as abundant as I predicted, because there’s literally just no women in the movie.
Not literally, there’s two. One of them is the main character Scott’s mother, and the other is Wendy Peffercorn. I’m not actually sure what the point was of even including the mom, as she’s not even a consistent character. She has few lines, and I think is just included to justify the relationship of Scotty Smalls and his step-dad Bill. I’m not even sure she has a name. She makes Scott wear a jacket, do dishes, shows concern about his social life, and asks Bill to spend time with her son. She also makes dinner. Whatever.
So really, there’s only one female character, and she represents all that is wrong with The Sandlot; a film that is supposed to represent boyhood in the early 1960s, paralleling it to boyhood in general. Wendy Peffercorn is introduced into the film when the boys admit they’d rather accept the insult offered by Benjamin “The Jet” Rodriguez, and be known as “a panty-waste who wears their mama’s bra” than play baseball on the extremely hot day, only after Squints saw her on the street and obsessed over her dress, leading Yeah-Yeah to make fun of him.
At the pool, the boys do plenty of things that are fucked up towards women. If you’re not going to include women or girls in the movie, the least you could do is be decent when discussing women. But that’s not the case. Smalls explains that the pool was partly about swimming, partly about staring at the ladies, and it was “the next best thing to reading a playboy magazine”. Women who are also hot and also want to cool off at the community pool are reduced to objects, and compared to models who actually pose for sexual pleasure; but “if anyone of them came up to anyone of us, we’d be petrified.” Benevolent sexism runs hard in this scene, as they put women on pedestals of beauty and intimidation, treating them like goddesses to look at rather than human beings. I mean, Wendy Peffercorn is literally dressed so similar to a 1960s barbie.
Before I dive into Squints’ stunt, I’ll offer a hypothetical. Imagine a young eleven year old girl fantasizing over the over-age lifeguard, sexualizing his actions while he puts on sun lotion, claiming that “he don’t know he’s doing”, only to be told “he knows exactly what he’s doing”, as if his lotioning was in attempt to draw the eleven year old girl to him. Imagine if that little girl proclaimed “i just can’t take it no more!”, prompting the only girl in her group of friends to not be able to swim, to jump into the deep end, baiting the lifeguard to come to her rescue.
Imagine if while that lifeguard was attempting to save her life through mouth-to-mouth, she grabbed his face and shoved her tongue down his throat. She’d be considered wild, and people like my dad would probably tell me that she’s going to be a slut when she’s older, and not contribute anything to the world. She’d be shamed for her stunt, for humiliating and sexually harassing the lifeguard who was only attempting to save her life.
Reversing the genders of the young girl and lifeguard, to be Squints and Wendy Peffercorn is a word-for-word depiction of the same event. I find it insulting that a movie that caters to young boys, guising itself as representing boyhood can so casually refer to an event contributing to a rape culture, objectification of women, and both hostile and benevolent sexism in a scene less than ten minutes long. Squints is not shamed for his actions, however, pride is instilled in him, as the narrator describes it as “cool”, because he had “kissed a woman, he kissed her long and good.”
Let’s also discuss the fact that after Squints’ retirement of the Sandlot, he bought the drug store and married no other than Wendy Peffercorn. Because “Squints stood a little taller that day”; it was the day “he became a man”. Why would there be any reason as to why Wendy wouldn’t want to marry the eleven year old boy who sexually harassed her as a teenager, and objectified her for three consecutive summers?
The completely women-inclusive cast of The Sandlot, doesn’t really even show much diversity with their two women characters. Both women fall into their respective gender roles, as Smalls’ mother is shown being a typical housewife, and Squints’ wife, Wendy Peffercorn, is alluded to as have had nine children with the boy who harassed her.
If one were to ignore the inadequate treatment and representation of Mother Smalls and Wendy Peffercorn, The Sandlot still doesn’t get great marks in passing for a great movie. Girls are sitting on the sidelines, but are never shown playing, Smalls is gender policed when giving a hint that he might like Bambi, a seemingly feminine movie, and Yeah-Yeah compares the ridiculous notion of Smalls joining the team to him bringing his sister along.
And of course the fact that playing ball like a girl was the worst insult of all, even compared to crap-face, dirt-licker, jerk, idiot, moron, scab eater, butt sniffer, puss licker, fart smeller, poop and toe jam eater, bobbing for apples in the toilet, buffalo-butt breath, and, of course, pee-drinking crap-face. Maybe you could argue that David Evans and Robert Gunter innocently wanted to depict boyhood; but as a woman, it’s pretty fucking irritating that you’re teaching young boys that the worst insult is to be a girl.
AND even with two people of color being featured as the two best players on the dream Sandlot team, The Sandlot still fails the Bechdel test in accordance to racial diversity. Kenny DeNunez and Benny Rodriguez seem to be the best pitcher / hitting duo on the team, and yet they never even speak to each other. The closest The Sandlot comes to passing arrives in the final scenes, as Mr. Mertle and Benny are speaking. However, they never speak without Smalls with them, and even if Smalls had left, they never speak about anything besides Babe Ruth and Smalls’ Greatest Pickle of All.
My cousins and I were about to watch The Sandlot with my grandmother, who had never seen it yet just recently, and when she asked what it was about, my cousin simply responded “boys”. It’s just boys playing baseball, and going through boyhood, and maybe my picking of a movie that is directly made for boys and being angry that there’s no girls seems silly, but our boys are idolizing the boys in The Sandlot whose two main POC don’t even talk to each other, and who objectify and sexually harass women, and if it hadn’t taken place in the 1960s, it’d probably still be a pretty similar movie, sadly.
But, of course, we cannot ignore the creation of The Sandlot 2 (2005) featuring the merging of the existing Sandlot team of the 1970s with the softball team, sticking up for themselves when someone says playing like a girl was an insult. However, this movie is not nearly as popular, and after the introduction of femininity to the boyhood feeling of The Sandlot, people like my dad say it lost all appeal.
If this movie had tried even a little bit to not actually be so frustrating for women, then I would love it. It has a goofy appeal as it parodies a neighborhood legend, caricaturing many people and scenes, and having a sweet, naive and rare unreliable narrator with bright colors giving it an innocent feeling. But, remember kid, there’s heroes and there’s legends. Heroes get remembered, but legends never die, and The Sandlot’s lack of effort to be inclusive to all audiences is extremely frustrating, as it’s proven to be a legend after twenty-three years of boyhood followers.